Ahead of the Composites in Rail conference, the organisers took the opportunity to gather industry insights from its expert speakers.
Speakers Kai Steinbach, Marcus Walls-Bruck and Marcus Mayers from the 'Understanding and overcoming barriers to composites in rail' session were asked about their predictions for the future of the composites' industry, the most exciting industry development from the last couple of years and what they will be speaking about at the Composites in Rail conference this June.
Please tell us about your current role. What are your key focus areas and responsibilities?
Kai Steinbach: I’m responsible for all engineering projects at the LZS. We are an engineering consultant and development supplier for almost any industry branch. We focus on lightweight solutions but not only on composites as we’re convinced that it’s necessary to find solutions which fit best to the customer demands. Therefore, I encourage my colleagues and our customers to take a neutral and unbiased view on the selection of materials and technologies. Only by that approach can we ensure to find technical solutions that fit best to technical and economic needs.
Marcus Walls-Bruck: I am the Chief Engineer for Automotive and Rail at the National Composite Centre. My key focus areas are determining the best ways to utilise composites within these sectors and the technologies required, and ensuring the work undertaken is to the highest standard
Marcus Mayers: I am the owner of a small innovation consultancy business in the rail sector. Like many consultants I split my time between business development, client management and delivery. The most fun bit of what I do is investigating how new products, from clients, could fit into the rail sector and evidencing the market. I really enjoy digging into why and how things could be done better. On the business development side I get to meet some great companies of all different sizes and get exposed to mind-blowing technology.
How do you see the composites industry developing and growing in the next three-to-five years?
Kai Steinbach: That’s a difficult question because this depends much on the overall growth of the industries. But nevertheless the foundations for a stable and continuous growth are clearly visible. Composites have in the last years left behind the status as experimental and become a highly sophisticated solution for special problems. Designers, engineers and technology developers have almost all the tools for engineering successful products available in off-the-shelf software and know how to use composites in daily routine. So one could say: all the ingredients are prepared, now it’s up to the chef to prepare a delicious meal.
Marcus Walls-Bruck: More applications of composites will make use of both the achievable mass savings and manufacturing freedoms, resulting in more applications where the benefits outweigh the perceived drawbacks. Development of new material technologies will enable other applications for composites.
Marcus Mayers: As a by-product of the environmental agenda the composites industry will grow quicker; whether it’s reducing use of metals, or making things lighter, to the transport energy cost, composites have a role to play. I believe composites role will also grow in relation to miniaturisation and smaller batch runs. There will be a big push in rail to increase hotel services and free up more space for consumer equipment.
This can only be met through smaller equipment. If you take a water/cess tank as an example they are currently square and made from metal. The use of moulded composites will allow a water tank to be a very unusual shape and fit around mission critical equipment. The industry isn’t quite there in terms of confidence in the product or fully understand the price point advantage at a whole system level but programmes like the new tube train for London are starting to get designers thinking about trains differently. The applications to railway infrastructure are also extensive as people start to think about how to reduce the cost of installation through the use of light weight capital equipment. So much money is spent on manual handling in rail infrastructure, there has to be a better design of product to reduce it.
To read the full interview, and learn more about this event, click here.